Man City producing some of the best football in club history
"The Brightness of her cheek would shame those stars as daylight doth a lamp; her eyes in heaven would through the airy region stream so bright that birds would sing, and think it were not night." - William Shakespeare.
It is not recorded what the few birds, who call their home central Manchester, thought of it all, but Manchester City's performance in beating Serie A leaders Napoli 2-1 in the Champions League on Tuesday set hearts soaring in a way hitherto not thought possible in this down-to-earth northern bulwark of a city.
In a place where chips come with gravy and the simple form of a meat-filled pie is a paragon of virtue, Pep Guardiola's masterpiece of geometry and physics is now being welcomed as part and parcel of the new Manchester scenery. For 30 minutes against Napoli, City played the most eye-watering version of high-energy, high-precision swarming that many City supporters can remember.
The Italian league leaders, lauded beforehand for their measly defence and jet-heeled attack, their stylish midfield and their trusty goalkeeper, were reduced to a confused rabble by a sky blue onslaught that hit them between the eyes right from the first shrill blast of Antonio Lahoz's whistle.
Many supporters -- including this correspondent of more decades of rough and tumble football than he cares to recall -- struggled to remember the last time City had produced a passage of play so profoundly capable of obliterating opposition of this calibre.
The nature of Manchester City, 100 years-plus of contrary occurrences, has been hewn from games where they managed to produce extremes of good and bad within the limits of a 90-minute match. It is, therefore, nothing particularly new to see City play well for a passage of time during a match, then fall away to another level.
This, however, was very different.
Two-up after 13 minutes, the first 30 minutes of the game involved a bewildering amount of possession, clever movement and domination of the spaces. The ball moved as if attached to an invisible thread, spinning delightfully from the boots of David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne to the flanks, where Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling and Kyle Walker continued the light-footed magic. In the middle, Gabriel Jesus dropped back and Fernandinho forced himself forward to further squeeze the life out of what was -- and still is -- a wily and more than capable Napoli team.
Reward came in the shape of two early goals, but De Bruyne's immaculate no-look left-footed blast that came back from the underside of the bar, and Jesus' shot stopped in extremis on the line between the jittery ankles of Kalidou Koulibaly, could well have made it 4-0 before Napoli regrouped and produced a strong reaction of their own.
By this time, the delighted crowd was feasting on one of the best 30 minutes of football ever served up in the name of Manchester City Football Club.
Down the years, there have been plenty of ups and downs in City's vivid history. On several occasions, the full range of emotions were experienced within one game. Memories of a stunning comeback in the second half of seemingly lost games, to Tottenham in the FA Cup in 2004 -- down 3-0 at half-time, with 10 men only to prevail 4-3 -- and Stoke in the third tier of English football in 1998, when a half-time deficit was turned around with no apparent catalyst beyond the crowd's noisy disquiet -- remind us that this club is the ultimate chameleon.
The so-called "Ballet on Ice" -- when City destroyed a very good Tottenham side in the snow of Maine Road in 1967 -- the 1977 second-half demolition of then European Champions Liverpool and the still fresh in the memory dismantling of Stoke City (7-2) from a few weeks ago all involved periods when the home side was utterly untouchable.
History tells us that what is most recent is not necessarily most beautiful, but in City's case at least some of their recent offerings must be considered candidates for the hall of fame. Oddly, given the club's apparent mental block in European competition, where it has taken time and patience to adapt, there are three outstanding candidates from the last two seasons.
In defeating Barcelona in the group stage last season, Guardiola's charges revealed the first signs of a team that could take a game forcefully to one of the world's heavyweights. In jousting with Monaco, the team of last season for many, and matching them for verve and vivacity in a sparkling 5-3 win, City showed yet more signs that European football was beginning to become a good fit.
But this latest showing, utterly flattening the much-appreciated Italian league leaders, showed power and precision, a mutual understanding of the where, the who, the how and the when that can only bode well for the rest City's promising season.
Simon is one of ESPN FC's Manchester City bloggers. Follow him on Twitter @bifana_bifana.